2021 Audio Plans

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I really like the stereo in my car. It has some sort of Harmon Kardon surround setup that really works well... you turn it off and immediately want to turn it back on. It also has a usable aux input that works with DAPs or a phone that has a headphone out (or Apple with the stupid ad-on plug that allows that). The only downside to it is, you ain't ever changing it for something else without serious surgery as everything in the car runs through it and the stereo is basically part of the cars interior. Perhaps there are purpose made aftermarket parts, I don't know. Also, it has a built in hardrive but it rips CDs to MP3 (unless I haven't figured out how to change that...possible...its a bit confusing).

Our other car, though, is a 21 year old BMW with a CD player that skips on every bump. I want to upgrade it without sticking a head-unit in as I like the original look. It reminds me everytime I get in how awful stock car stereos were 20 years ago...and it even has a subwoofer built-in. It just sucks.
 
A Sony I presume?
Probably the Pioneer DMH-WC6600NEX, or 7600. 9" "floating" display with single-DIN electronics. The 8600 moves to a 10" screen but that wouldn't fit as well in the ride. Double-DIN units are limited in screen size and my current Pioneer's screen is about as large as it can get.


Also an iDataLink Maestro to connect to the steering wheel controls, which is more flexible than my current CRUX adapter. (I installed an iDataLink remote starter two winters ago.)
 
The only downside to it is, you ain't ever changing it for something else without serious surgery as everything in the car runs through it and the stereo is basically part of the cars interior.
Yeah, that's my pet peeve right there. The days of cars with simple controls has long passed. The last time I rented a car, I had to sit in the dealer lot for ten minutes trying to figure out everything before I drove it. The head unit is pretty much where everything is programmed to configure the vehicle. That and audio systems now add one of two things to the sound--they'll feed it sound-canceling signal to make the interior quieter, or they'll add a fake exhaust note to make it sound more sporty. Lame.

There are dash kits for some cars that still have a separate radio (not tied to the rest of the car) but look as though they integrated to the dash. A double-DIN opening might appear a little awkward on some of them, but it still beats the factory system.

I've only used SD cards and/or USB thumb drives for nine years now, and carry so much music with me now that I don't even have to pick what to take in the car with me anymore. I thought of a 1TB SSD in my center console for the Pioneer I have now, but since the 400GB SD card and 256GB thumb drive still have plenty of empty space, I'm not worrying too much about it. (I can switch between the SD card and two USB ports as inputs, although one USB port is reserved for connecting the phone.) Today's automakers think we all stream music through Spotify on our phones. 🙄
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
*Raises hand. I stream Spotify over bluetooth in my car. There's some sort of magic happening in whatever "Harman Kardon Logic 7" is as it doesn't sound that bad, and the car's interior is pretty quiet.

Everything on my car is controlled by this single knob in front of the arm rest that rotates and depresses. The car itself is from that magical time period of 2013 where all this complicated tech was coming on scene but any idea about intuitive user interface was out the window. When my wife drives I have to control everything for her with my left hand as she simply has no idea. And the nav system is so convoluted that the only way to use it is by voice command...even the dealership said as much. Not that there isn't a better nav system on my phone....
 
It makes me wonder what was so wrong with large, tactile knobs and buttons with plenty of feedback that we could operate sight unseen, without having to take our eyes off the road. They were simple, and they worked. Everyone worries about distracted drivers on their smartphones, but don't address these larger and larger screens embedded in the dashboards that have to be navigated via menus. All the auto manufacturers have done is take us from our smartphone to an oversized distracting tablet embedded in the dashboard.

It makes me wonder how the hell I would ever be able to drive something like that. I have to wear readers more and more with each passing day to see anything. I have to squint at the dash and especially the head unit if I'm using navigation; swapping my readers on and off won't cut it when I'm driving on unfamiliar roads out west at 85 MPH (keeping up with traffic), struggling to see something. And if the text is red or anything close to it, I'm screwed--anything red is just a massive blur to me in the dark. I'm going to need a different set of glasses for distance viewing pretty soon as well. Bifocals really aren't the answer either--I can see better with the readers, but not perfectly. If I'm needing to poke at some blurry menu on a screen to change sound settings or climate controls, there's something wrong with this picture.

And it pains me to say all this, since I'm about as forward-thinking on new technology as most gearheads are. I like trying new things, and reading about new ways to apply technology to things we use daily. But anything that can lead to frustration for the mundane task of something like daily driving is something I don't look forward to. I'd rather they lose the Space Invaders electronics and start focusing again on making cars reliable, good handling, economical to own, easy to operate with tactile controls, reliable, good on fuel economy. Oh yeah, and reliable.

(PS....probably best to move this side discussion about car audio to its own thread as I've derailed it enough.)
 

Audionut

Next Round Is On Me
That's what I dislike about newer cars--we are stuck with the poor-sounding factory systems that have zero flexibility. All I want is the ability to play FLAC or DSF files in the car. My head unit plays FLAC up to 24-bit/192kHz, and the upgrade head unit I'm thinking of (mainly for a larger screen) can play DSF. Meaning, I don't have to spend days downsampling files or worse, applying lossy data compression. With the right SD card and USB memory stick (512GB), I can carry as much as 1TB of files in the car.

There's not even a good option to add our own digital player--AUX ports in cars are noisy. A couple of car models use Android-powered head units, and some are easily "rooted" so we can sideload apps and make them more useful. I don't know what I'll do when I have to upgrade to a newer car. Crutchfield is my first stop to see if a vehicle I'm looking at has upgrade capabilities.

So if road trips resume later this year, I may be moving my current head unit to our spare/winter car, and getting a larger screen for my daily driver.
Crutchfield is top notch. I’ll be picking up a head unit and two sets of speakers.
 
I know I'm probably in a rapidly-dwindling minority, but I believe that touch screens in cars are a terrible idea. I don't own any vehicles new enough to have one, and as I began the design of my PC-based car audio system I quickly realized that trying to locate and then actuate a touch screen-based system was just too distracting & dangerous for me.

So I figured out a compromise: a wireless link to a 7" tablet displaying a Foobar2000 screen just like my home rig - but with touch functionality disabled. For control input, I'll use an IR remote talking to a Flirc USB receiver. This way, all I need to do is glance briefly at the screen to see where I need to go, to select an album from a list for example. From there it's easy to find & push buttons on the remote in the required sequence without taking eyes off the road. I've been trying this out for a little while now, and it's a whole lot less nerve-racking.
 

Andyman

Junior Member
My cars are old and have lots of wind and road noise so 320 mp3s off thumb drive or Bluetoothing foles or streams via my phone works well for me.

Yep on modern car radio upgrades being a PITA. The radio in the old Mazda6 occasionally has dropouts, so I bought an upgrade and went to install it. I was going to carve a hole in the facade, but once I pulled it out I saw there was a PC board there for the climate controls, and not the hole I had seen on all my other cars, so I buttoned it back up after spraying the volume pot, which did seem to help. I could have popped $200+ for an adaptor facade, but the car was lightly driven, so I opted not to spend that on it.
Since then, we've changed cars and I drive it now, and a quick spin on the pot isn't a big deal for me.
 
Crutchfield is top notch. I’ll be picking up a head unit and two sets of speakers.
They're a bit more spendy than the competition but support is top notch. Their fitment database is usually correct, but I had an issue with speakers I bought that did not fit the opening in the door. (The frame was too "fat.") Ended up keeping the speakers and, if I could ever measure the parameters of the woofer, I might consider making my own small tower system out of them.

I know I'm probably in a rapidly-dwindling minority, but I believe that touch screens in cars are a terrible idea.
They can work well, but thankfully greater minds than my own have designed the interfaces. My Pioneer's menu for selecting albums is pretty good--if I set it to "file" mode, I sorted the music by alphabetical folders like A-C, D-F, etc., and put the artists beneath those folders. And within each artist folder are the albums. I can quickly navigate to the music now that I know my way around, with hardly any distraction. (And fortunately the letters are large enough that I can still mostly read them without readers.)

Most helpful is navigation--after taking it on several long road trips over the past few years, it's been invaluable. Luckily with navigation, I only have to choose my destination before I drive off, and don't have to touch it until I arrive or, if it finds a traffic situation, has me tap a chosen alternate route to get around it. I could also use it through voice commands if I needed to.

A pet peeve was Pioneer disabling many of the features if the car is in motion; I use a parking brake bypass to get them back. The system was taking away basic functions like changing the subwoofer's volume, and also preventing the use of navigation (such as, searching for destinations) if the car wasn't parked. What happens when I have someone riding shotgun who does a few searches for me while I'm driving, or looks ahead on the map to see how bad the traffic situation is up ahead? Yep, they're shut out. So the parking brake bypass I found was a necessity.

Since then, we've changed cars and I drive it now, and a quick spin on the pot isn't a big deal for me.
I actually wore out a volume control on my older car, and it was more reluctant to turn down than it was to turn up. (This is one of those where the knob turns continuously through "stops" vs. having a left and right limit to the travel.) As old as it was, I just replaced the whole unit with aftermarket, as the cassette player had died, and the CD changer wasn't reading so well.
 

Andyman

Junior Member
After reading this, it occurs to me I can use the on wheel controls and perhaps avoid pot dead spots!
 
After reading this, it occurs to me I can use the on wheel controls and perhaps avoid pot dead spots!
That would probably work! Some older cars with steering wheel controls used a motorized volume control (like my dad's LeSabre from 1995), but more recent ones do it electronically and would avoid the front panel volume control.
 
2021 audio plans?

Well, I'm content with the sound of my system, but I like a project and my music server/player is dying slowly.
  1. Finish Boris
  2. Sort my server/streaming solution
  3. Bonus points: redo speaker crossovers
I really need to focus on these things instead of dreaming up new projects like Type 45, Type 50, and EML20B SETs and new speakers.
 
1. Purchase a Doorway disc player to use as a CD transport for my desktop setup.
2. Hook up my BPC (Denon AVR) to my basement system. Play with the auto room correction EQ.
3. Find something (most likely a used cellphone with an microSD slot) to free up my primary cellphone from streaming to my desktop system.
 

Wntrmute2

Not So Mediocre Member
It makes me wonder what was so wrong with large, tactile knobs and buttons with plenty of feedback that we could operate sight unseen, without having to take our eyes off the road. They were simple, and they worked. Everyone worries about distracted drivers on their smartphones, but don't address these larger and larger screens embedded in the dashboards that have to be navigated via menus. All the auto manufacturers have done is take us from our smartphone to an oversized distracting tablet embedded in the dashboard.

It makes me wonder how the hell I would ever be able to drive something like that. I have to wear readers more and more with each passing day to see anything. I have to squint at the dash and especially the head unit if I'm using navigation; swapping my readers on and off won't cut it when I'm driving on unfamiliar roads out west at 85 MPH (keeping up with traffic), struggling to see something. And if the text is red or anything close to it, I'm screwed--anything red is just a massive blur to me in the dark. I'm going to need a different set of glasses for distance viewing pretty soon as well. Bifocals really aren't the answer either--I can see better with the readers, but not perfectly. If I'm needing to poke at some blurry menu on a screen to change sound settings or climate controls, there's something wrong with this picture.

And it pains me to say all this, since I'm about as forward-thinking on new technology as most gearheads are. I like trying new things, and reading about new ways to apply technology to things we use daily. But anything that can lead to frustration for the mundane task of something like daily driving is something I don't look forward to. I'd rather they lose the Space Invaders electronics and start focusing again on making cars reliable, good handling, economical to own, easy to operate with tactile controls, reliable, good on fuel economy. Oh yeah, and reliable.

(PS....probably best to move this side discussion about car audio to its own thread as I've derailed it enough.)
We need heads-up displays.
 
We need heads-up displays.

Heads-Up displays will be showing up in more vehicles soon. Like happens with a lot of technology, the heads-up displays showed up on luxury vehicles first. But as the technology matures, it will become cheaper and start to filter down to more pedestrian vehicles. And these won't be the cheesy Heads-Up displays of the past. I drove one of our 21 model year prototype trucks about a year-and-a-half ago with a heads-up display and the display resolution was very sharp and actually looked to be floating about 2 feet in front of the hood of the truck. I know that can sound distracting, but I didn't find it to be so.
 
Not a discrete set of goals, but I hope to digest some of the lessons learned from trading horses over the past few years and to form practices around those. You know, learning how to focus my efforts and all.
 
We need heads-up displays.

I drove one of our 21 model year prototype trucks about a year-and-a-half ago with a heads-up display and the display resolution was very sharp and actually looked to be floating about 2 feet in front of the hood of the truck. I know that can sound distracting, but I didn't find it to be so.

I'm looking forward to seeing HUDs, although the way I buy cars, it'll take me several years after they're introduced before I'd actually get to own one. I think I've seen aftermarket HUDs, but I wouldn't expect them to be of the best quality. Speed and tach are not such a big issue, but I'd love to have a very basic extension of navigation on the windshield (maybe upcoming turns/exits, traffic alerts, etc.) so I wouldn't have to glance down and interpret what I'm seeing on the full navigation screen.
 
I'm looking forward to seeing HUDs, although the way I buy cars, it'll take me several years after they're introduced before I'd actually get to own one. I think I've seen aftermarket HUDs, but I wouldn't expect them to be of the best quality. Speed and tach are not such a big issue, but I'd love to have a very basic extension of navigation on the windshield (maybe upcoming turns/exits, traffic alerts, etc.) so I wouldn't have to glance down and interpret what I'm seeing on the full navigation screen.

Yeah the way I buy cars, it will be a long time before I see one. My Cherokee that we got 3 years ago was my first vehicle with a touch screen radio.
 
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